Workers Comp Zone

AB 1634 & AB 1897

Things move fast as the legislative session comes to a close.

As of earlier today, however, 2 important bills on worker safety were pending, AB 1634 and AB 1897.

The workers’ compensation community should have a great interest in legislation that promotes safe working practices.

AB 1634 (sponsored by Assembly members Ammiano, Skinner, Bonta, Gonzalez, Quirk, Ting & Wieckowski and Senator Hancock) has already passed the Assembly side of the California legislature (on a 45 to 28 vote) but is pending at the Senate. Principal sponsors include WORKSAFE and the California State Building and Trades Council.

Aimed at toughening enforcement against workplace hazards identified at the time of Cal-OSHA inspections, AB 1634 would prohibit DOSH from granting a proposed modification to civil penalties for abatement or credit for abatement unless the employer has done any of the following:

-Abated the violation at the time of the initial inspection.

-Abated the violation at the time of a subsequent inspection prior to the issuance of a citation.

-Submitted a signed statement under penalty of perjury and supporting evidence, when necessary to prove abatement, as specified.

The bill would also require DOSH to require the employer to submit a signed statement, with supporting evidence, where necessary to prove abatement, under penalty of perjury, that he/she has complied with the abatement terms within the period fixed or abatement of the violation. DOSH may grant a modification,as specified, only if the employer has abated the violation at the time of the initial or subsequent inspection or the statement, signed under penalty of perjury, and supporting evidence are received within 10 working days after the end of the period fixed for abatement.

In coming days it will be interesting to see what happens with this bill. Recently the Brown administration has been under fire regarding staffing and enforcement issues at Cal-OSHA.

Another bill that bears watching is AB 1897 (Hernandez). 

Key sponsors include the California Labor Federation, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, and the UFCW union. Opponents include the California Chamber of Commerce, which has the bill on its 2014 job killer list, the Western Growers Association,  and various powerful California trade associations. The Cal-Chamber site claims that AB 1897 “unfairly imposes liability on a contracting entity for the contractor’s wage and hour violations and lack of workers’ compensation coverage, despite the lack of any evidence that the contracting entity controlled the working conditions or wages of the contractor’s employees.”

AB 1897 would tighten the rules for employers who obtain workers from third-party labor contractors. Businesses would be exempted if they have  less than 25 workers or 5 or fewer workers supplied by a labor contractor at any given time. Motion pictures payroll companies and nonprofit community groups are also among the exemptions.

The heart of the bill is that it provides that a client employer shall share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and liability for payment of wages and failure to obtain workers’ comp coverage.

WORKSAFE, a prominent non-profit that focuses on worker safety, notes that “Temp workers are 50% more likely to suffer on-the-job injuries than permanent employees. This bill will hold all parties, including the client company, responsible for wage and hour violations and unsafe working conditions, and ensure the proper workers’ compensation insurance has been obtained.”

California workers’ comp has been plagued with problems with various staffing agency firms.

The argument in favor of the bill is summarized in the Senate floor analysis as follows:

“Not only does the use of a contractor make it harder to hold the company accountable for the treatment of workers, but it also interferes with the right toorganize. Contract laborers work for the labor contractor,so at one site, there can be multiple employers. That results in split bargaining units, multiple elections, and a constantly divided workforce.”

“Current law is simply insufficient to protect workers’ rights in the shadows of the subcontracted economy. AB 1897 holds companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights, committed by their own labor suppliers, to workers on their premises. This simple rule will incentivize the use of responsible contractors, rather than a race to the bottom. It will protect vulnerable temporary workers, as well as businesses that follow the law and don’t profit from cheating workers. It offers workers a clear path to accountability for workplace violations and it offers employers a clear path to compliance.”

With outsourcing of workers being an increasing trend, it’s little wonder that AB 1897 has been attracting such interest.

Workerscompzone will continue to cover the fate of these 2 bills as the session winds down.

Stay tuned. Note that the redesigned blog has a subscription feature on the right hand column. I urge you to subscribe so that the blog can be delivered directly to your mailbox.

Julius Young